Slow starts have become a theme for the Boston Celtics in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Washington Wizards.
The Celtics found themselves in double-digit deficits in Games 1 and 2, but responded with strong second halves en route to victories in both contests.
Thursday night’s Game 3 was no different. Washington closed the first quarter on a 27-5 run and held a commanding 39-17 lead after the first 12 minutes. There wouldn’t be any Boston comeback this time around, though, as the Wizards kept the foot on the gas pedal and cruised to a 116-89 blowout victory at the Verizon Center.
While the C’s still hold a 2-1 series lead, this slow start trend is one they must put to rest if they have any hope of advancing to the next round. Boston was lucky to benefit off of poor Wizards performances outside of John Wall in the first two games, but Thursday night was a much different story.
While Wall shined again with 24 points and eight assists in Game 3, he wasn’t the only Wizard to stuff the stat sheet. Bogan Bogdanovic and Otto Porter Jr. both torched the C’s for 19 points each, while Marcin Gortat posted 13 points to go along with 16 rebounds.
Boston will need to match Washington’s intensity to start Game 4 on Sunday. The Wizards simply were the tougher and more energized team Thursday night, and the scoreboard illustrated that.
The Celtics can help slow down the Wizards by being more fluid on offense. Boston settled for poor shot selection in Game 3 and their offense generally lacked rhythm. The Celtics’ haphazard offense played right into Washington’s hands and the Wizards made Boston pay in transition.
The C’s can’t always rely on lights-out shooting, but they can dictate their pace and energy. If Boston comes out flat again in Game 4, we’re probably looking at an even series by Sunday night.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Wizards.
–Wall’s strong performance in Game 3 continued his tear in the 2017 NBA playoffs.
–Marcus Smart struggled mightily for Boston on Thursday night. While he did contribute nine points, he committed an alarming eight turnovers. Giveaways are troublesome in general, but even more so against a fast-paced transition team like the Wizards.
–Three players were ejected from Game 3. Kelly Oubre Jr.’s night ended early after he egregiously shoved Kelly Olynyk in the second quarter. Terry Rozier and Brandon Jennings also were tossed with a series of fouls and an eventual double-technical in the fourth frame.
–Isaiah Thomas posted his lowest point total of the postseason with 13. Washington limited the Celtics guard to only eight shot attempts in the game.
–Boston’s rebounding woes resurfaced in Game 3, as the Wizards held a 50-38 advantage on the glass. The Celtics pulled down just eight offensive boards, which thwarted second-chance opportunities.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images